Sunday, December 6, 2015

Archive Review: The Dictators' Bloodbrothers (1999 reissue)

The Dictators' Bloodbrothers
Maybe they didn't create punk rock, but the Dictators – one of the greatest lost rock 'n' roll bands of the '70s – certainly helped to define the genre. Hitting the streets running in 1973 with their debut, The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!, the Dictators bucked the musical trends of the time with a stripped-down, hardcore rock assault that was equal parts garage band fervor and metallic overkill. Owing more to the MC5 and the Stooges than to the singer/songwriter trend that dominated the mid-70s commercially before the onslaught of punk, the Dictators made three great albums before the members moved onto other challenges.

Sadly, for many years, only the first of the band's trio of hard rocking elpees remained in print. Since the labels that originally issued these gems had no interest in putting the other two Dictators albums out on CD, the band took it upon themselves to grab the rights to Bloodbrothers, their third (and, arguably, their best) album and reissued it their own damn selves.

Bloodbrothers is full of great songs. “Faster & Louder” is hardcore punk stripped bare, more an affirmation of the band's musical philosophy than an attempt at cultural documentation. “The Minnesota Strip” lyrically visits that infamous section of New York City, known for its youthful population of runaways, junkies and whores of both genders. Punctuated by the razor-sharp twin guitars of Ross “The Boss” and Scott “Top Ten” Kempner, the song is as haunting as the dark streets it evokes. “Stay With Me” is the sort of harmony-filled pop/rock ditty that the Del Lords would later perfect (remaking this song on their last album). The band ends the disc with as much energy as they started it, burning through a savage rendering of the Flamin' Groovies' “Slow Death.” All told, Bloodbrothers simply bristles with energy, an album made by a band shooting for the big time with absolutely nothing to lose.

Although Kempner would go on to found the Del Lords, and most of the rest of the Dictators would reunite as Manitoba's Wild Kingdom for an album with lead singer “Handsome” Dick Manitoba, the work that these guys did with the Dictators is priceless, straight-ahead classic rock straight from the streets. Dictators Forever, Forever Dictators! (Dictators Multimedia, released November 1998)

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